Image:Former British soccer player David Beckham smiles at the Evening Standard Theatre awards in London November 30, 2014. REUTERS/Neil Hall
By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI (Reuters) – After a two-year-long search, retired English football star David Beckham and a team of investors said on Friday they had secured a site in Miami where they hope to build an arena for a Major League Soccer team.
Miami Beckham United said in a statement that most of the nine-acre tract just west of Interstate 95 in the urban Overtown neighbourhood was private property that it had under contract to buy for an undisclosed sum.
Miami-Dade County owns the remainder of the land, which the group said it plans to buy at “fair market value” once the site is approved by the MLS Board of Governors, which is expected to meet on Saturday.
The league’s Commissioner Don Garber said this week that if a deal for a stadium could not be finalised, then Miami was not going to have a MLS team.
“We appreciate the support and patience of our fans who share David’s dream of fielding a world-class soccer club in Miami,” Miami Beckham United said. “We’ve never been closer to making that vision a reality.”
The move caps nearly two years of failed efforts by Beckham, American Idol founder Simon Fuller and Sprint chief executive Marcelo Claure to secure public land for the nearly $250 million, 30,000-seat stadium.
Beckham’s arrival in Miami in 2013 garnered international media attention as he exercised an option in his MLS contract from his playing days with the Los Angeles Galaxy to own a franchise. But several proposed sites were rebuffed after a $500 million baseball park for the Miami Marlins drew criticism for favouring the team’s wealthy owners.
Plans for football stadiums on publicly owned lots on the Miami’s island port and in downtown Miami have been rejected.
Most recently, Beckham’s group sought to build the team’s future home in the heavily Hispanic Little Havana neighbourhood adjacent to Marlins Park. Investors were unable to finalise those plans, however, after a handful of private landowners whose lots were needed for construction demanded “exorbitant” prices, a Miami Beckham United spokesman said.
The site in Overtown is within walking distance of several public transit options and the Miami River District, the group said.
The 20-team MLS plans to grow to 24 teams by 2020 with expansion teams already announced for Minnesota, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. Cities including Sacramento have been vying for one of the coveted franchises as the Beckham group’s efforts faltered.
(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Grant McCool)
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